Monday, July 31, 2006

In Jesus' Name We Pray...

Many people have a very strangely childish notion, that "praying in the name of Christ" means simply the addition of the words "through Jesus Christ our Lord" at the end of their prayers. But depend upon it, they do not by adding these words, or any words, bring it about that their prayers should be in the name of Christ. To pray in the name of Christ means to pray in such a way as represents Christ. The representative always must speak in the spirit and meaning of those for whom he speaks. If Christ is our representative, that must be because He speaks our wishes, or what we ought to make our wishes; and if we are to pray in the name of Christ, that means that we are, however far off, expressing His wishes and intentions. ... Charles Gore (1853-1932), The Sermon on the Mount [1910]

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Doc "Barnabas" Cornutt

At a reception at Skillman this afternoon ACU honored Doc Cornutt as one of it's Distinguished Alumni. The reception was originally to have taken place in May - below is the the post I wrote at that time...

ACU’s Distinguished Alumni Citation recognizes distinctive personal or professional achievement that has merited the honor and praise of peers and colleagues. This year 12 ACU Distinguished Alumni have been chosen as part of ACU’s Centennial Celebration. We are blessed at Skillman to have 2 of the 12 recipients in our midst. Charme Robarts was honored at a reception at Skillman in March, and this Sunday Doc Cornutt will be honored in Abilene.

We have been acquainted with the Cornutt's since we moved to the Dallas area and came to Skillman in 1989. Their daughter Shelley and Lauren are the same age and have been friends since the first grade. I got to know Doc and Linda better when Shelley played with Lauren on the basketball team that I coached during the springs and summers when they were in high school, and I have gotten to know Doc even better during the time we have served together as elders.

The highest compliment Doc expresses for someone is to call them a Barnabus. He values the trait of being an encourager, and looks for it in others. Because he looks for encouraging behavior, he often sees it. But more importantly, he embodies it. Doc truly is more like Barnabus than anyone I know, and this award is well-deserved.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

This and That

Most of the swelling is gone from my knee. I got on a stationary bike yesterday and today; my range of motion is improving. Still not completely able to straighten, but it's straighter than it has been for the past couple of years...

I pass a DART station on my way home from work each day. Today I saw a brown DART bus with the word Hungerectomy on the side. Since the problem of hunger has been on my mind, I immediately thought that maybe that it referred to some campaign or program to help solve the problem - idealistic me; turns out it was part of a new ad campaign for Snickers...

Tonight was the Dallas area send off party for incoming freshman to Pepperdine. Pepperdine's Freshman class consists of 740 students selected from over 8000 applicants. Around 20 of those are from around the Dallas area.

Taylor and I will head west one month from tomorrow. This is a time of ambivalence. I am happy for Taylor and excited that he is beginning this phase of his life; I am pleased with his choice of schools - Pepperdine offers a quality education in a beautiful environment with a faculty that actively nurtures and supports growth among its students in the 4 areas that Luke attributed to Jesus: academic growth, physical wellness, spiritual growth, and social responsibility (wisdom, stature, favor with God and man).

At the same time, the house will seem empty, and Malibu is 1500 miles away. It is a great place to visit, though.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Quote of the Day

Receive every day as a resurrection from death, as a new enjoyment of life; meet every rising sun with such sentiments of God's goodness, as if you had seen it, and all things, new-created upon your account: and under the sense of so great a blessing, let your joyful heart praise and magnify so good and glorious a Creator. ... William Law (1686-1761), A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life [1728]

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Heal the Sick

Since we have begun participating in the Partnership for Missional Church, one discipline we are practicing on a more regular basis is Dwelling in the Word. This morning in class we were dwelling in Luke 10, where Jesus sends 70 disciples out ahead of him. Among the instructions he gives them are "Heal the sick and tell them that the Kingdom of God is near".

I don't have much trouble understanding that these disciples had the power to actually heal the sick that they encountered. I have a little more difficulty trying to comprehend what that means for me today. I am fairly certain that I do not have the power to heal the sick as the disciples did. As I reflect on the implications of the imperative to heal the sick in today's world, I think one response may be providing access to health care for those who don't have it or can't afford it.

Medical missions to Africa (like the annual trip to Zambia that some of our people participate in), Mexico, Central America, and other places where the people have little or no access to modern health care may be one way to respond. Another is the Community Health Services program operated by Central Dallas Ministries. There are undoubtedly others. I don't know for certain that these are what Jesus meant for today's world when he said to heal the sick, but I'm fairly certain that it is a part of loving my neighbor.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Recovery, Week 1; The Worthy Poor

A week after surgery and doing pretty well. I've had 2 physical therapy sessions and have put away the crutches. Not too much pain, still some swelling. After limping for 2 years, I am having to retrain myself to walk with a normal gate. The exercises are focused on regaining range of motion, and I am hopeful that I will be able to fully straighten my leg.

There is a chapter in Robert Lupton's Theirs Is The Kingdom entitled "The Truly Worthy Poor". I was reminded of this chapter this week as I was finishing Growing Up Empty. Here is an excerpt from "The Truly Worthy Poor"...

A truly worthy poor woman: Is a widow more than sixty-five years old living alone in substandard housing; does not have a family or relatives to care for her. Has no savings and cannot work; has an income inadequate for her needs. Is a woman of prayer and faith, never asks anyone for anything but only accepts with gratitude what people bring her; is not cranky...

A truly worth poor family: Is devout, close-knit. Has a responsible father working long hours at minimum wage wherever he can find work. Has a mother who makes the kids obey, washes clothes by hand, and will not buy any junk food. Lives in overcrowded housing; will not accept welfare or food stamps even when neither parent can find work. Always pays the bills on time; has no automobile. Has kids who do not whine or tell lies.

I want to serve truly worthy poor people. The problem is they are hard to find. Someone on our staff thought he remembered seeing one back in '76, but couldn't remember for sure...

As I read the stories of individuals and families in Growing Up Empty I couldn't help but think that many of them came close to fitting the tongue-in-cheek profile that Lupton described. One of the people interviewed for this book put it this way...

But there is a belief in our culture that if you work you will not be poor or hungry, and the truth is that many of the people who work, even the people who work full-time are very often poor and often very hungry. They never get above the poverty line... A lot of the people we see here simply can't make ends meet no matter how hard they work or how well they manage... Most have no medical benefits, so they have to choose between medicine, food and housing.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Roberto Clemente

The major league all-star game was held in Pittsburgh tonight and fittingly, Roberto Clemente was honored. Clemente, one of my boyhood heroes, played for the Pirates from the mid 50's until 1972. He died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve, 1972 while taking supplies to the victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua. Clemente was a great player, a hero both on and off the field. He was known for playing the game of baseball with a great passion that could only be matched by his unrelenting commitment to making a difference in the lives of those in need.

I grew up a Pirates fan and remember countless nights lying in bed listening to Bob Prince and Nellie King announce the Pirate games on the radio. My favorites were Clemente, Bill Mazeroski (who escorted Vera Clemente onto the field to receive tonight's award), and Willie Stargell. I was 14 when Clemente died, and will always remember the moment when I learned of his death. I had a paper route at that time, and had decided to deliver the New Year's Day papers before I went to bed so I wouldn't have to get up early to deliver them the next morning. The truck dropped off my bundle of papers around 1 am and there was the headline: Clemente Plane Missing. The next day the news was confirmed; we had lost a hero.

In 1973 baseball began awarding the annual Roberto Clemente award to the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team. Tonight baseball remembered a true hero.

Monday, July 10, 2006

That's Not OK...

Patrick Mead preaches for the Rochester, Michigan church. This post from his blog last week is worth reading. (Reposted with permission)

That's Not Okay With Me...

According to the last census, Detroit is the most African-American city in the US. Bordering Detroit is Livonia, declared the whitest city in the US by that same census. Eight Mile Road is a border land inhabited by Chaledeans (Iraqis, mainly Christian) who have their own closed community. I could go on and on because the tribal lines everywhere here and those lines are walls; and woe be unto anyone who wants to breach them.

That's not okay with me.

Jesus launched a revolution where he replaced 600+ laws on religion with a new rule: "The only thing that matters is faith expressing itself in love" (Galatians 5). Since that time Christians have scurried to make new laws, new walls, new barriers.

That's not okay with me.

We sit in worship with people who look like us, who like the things we like, and with whom we are comfortable. Outside are single mothers, rockers, slackers, addicts, the divorced, the slaves of consumerism, gray minions of corporate America, skateboarders and.... you get the idea. None of them will ever feel comfortable with our ways or in our buildings. In those rare instances in which they want to be a part of us, we force them to become us first! They have to be more like us, agree with our preferences, and behave themselves.... then and only then are they allowed access to the Kingdom.

That's not okay with me.

My neighborhood is full of young couples with children. Toys, bikes, swingsets, and forts are in every yard but ours. We are the old folk here. On Sundays, only a couple families from this subdivision go to worship. None go with us and none will consider driving the 20-30 minutes it takes to get to Rochester Hills from our home. They won't go with me, so should I leave them to their fate?

That's not okay with me.

Dearborn Heights, an area about a forty minute drive from my house, has the largest concentration of Muslims of any place in the US. Drive another hour south and, just as you leave Toledo and enter the flat northwest corner of Ohio, there is a huge and opulent mosque reminding you of who has congregated here. Reaching Muslims is difficult (always) and can be dangerous (rarely). Chances of success are small. Most people write them off, turn slightly away from the swarthy man boarding the bus or the plane, stand next to them in line at Meijers, saying nothing, and then go to a segregated, safe place on Sunday and sing "Anywhere with Jesus."

That's not okay with me.

If I have to form evangelistic small groups to target each of these people for Jesus, I'm okay with that. If that makes some of my brethren nervous because their comfortable, predictable church order is changed around and their preferences (and ease) are no longer the greatest priority, I'm saddened by their attitude, but I'm okay with that, knowing that doors swing both ways and keeping them in and happy means keeping out everybody else. I will not trade one soul for a million, not if it is over a matter of taste and tradition rather than a plainly stated "thus sayeth the Lord."

I'm just not okay with that.

Will we fail? Yes. Probably several times. But the greatest failure of all would be to keep doing what we have always been doing and expect God to change everybody else in the world so that they will look, like, and think like us... and then magically come in and sit quietly with us at church. It would require ignoring the Great Commission, the Revolution of Jesus, and the facts of the gospel. It would require us to shrug our shoulders and consign the rest of the world to hell.

That's not okay with me. Is it with you?

Hunger in America

One of the benefits to sitting with my leg propped up is that I have time to get caught up on some reading. One of the drawbacks to getting caught up on some reading is that the content can be troublesome. One of my catch-up books is Loretta Schwartz-Nobel's Growing Up Empty - this month's selection for the Urban Engagement Book Club.

Growing Up Empty is a series of stories of people in America who face hunger on a daily basis. The auther tells their stories in their own words - from the wife of the doctor who left her and 3 children for another woman to the soldier's family living in military housing to the janitor working for minimum wage - These are the stories of people who cannot afford to feed themselves and their dependents.

Some fast facts about hunger (from the Center on Poverty and Hunger - Brandeis University)
  • Nearly one in eight US households do not have access to enough food to meet their basic needs. Over 38 million people live in these food-insecure households, including 13.9 million children.
  • More than ten million people live in households that go hungry; close to one-third of these are children.
  • Over 40% of low-income children live in households that are hungry or at risk of hunger.
  • One-third of female-headed households and more than 20% of Black and Hispanic households are uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the basic needs of their members because of insufficient money to buy food.
  • More Texans are at risk of going hungry than anywhere else in the country. Every day, one in six Texans is food insecure, meaning they aren’t sure where they’ll get their next meal.

Food security refers to assured access to enough food at all times for an active and healthy life. At a minimum, food security includes: the availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, and a guaranteed ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging or stealing, for example).
Food insecurity occurs whenever the availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food, or the ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways, is limited or uncertain.

As we talk about politics and religion or becoming missional, somehow feeding the hungry must be a part of that conversation. "For as you have done to the least of these, so have you done to me also."

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Recovery Day 2; More Politics and Religion

Not much change today - movement hurts, but I mostly sit with my leg propped up. Still quite swollen and one of my incisions seeps when I do my bending and straightening exercises. Ice helps. According to the Dr. tomorrow should be the day it begins to start feeling a little better. Don't know how long I'll be on crutches...

Last Sunday morning we acknowledged the 4th of July by singing 3 patriotic songs and participating in a unison congregational prayer for our country and our elected leaders. I have to admit to a level of ambivalance and some degree of discomfort for a number of reasons.

On one hand I am greatful to have been born into the greatest country in the world. I am greatful for the courage and the sacrifices that have been made by so many from signers of the Declaration of Independence to all those who have fought for freedom; to the framers of our constitution and to all those who have protected it over the past two centuries; for the Bill of Rights and, as Lincoln phrased it, government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

On the other hand, the United States is not the kingdom of God on earth, and Americans are not the chosen people. I wonder if sometimes we don't get that confused.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Recovery; Religion and Politics

Slept ok, still not much pain. Changed the dressing this morning and was surprised to see how swollen and purple the knee is. I have 5 small incisions. I've begun straightening and bending exercises and there is some soreness associated with that. Getting a little tired of sitting/laying with my leg up, but it could be worse...

Gerald Britt wrote an excellent editorial in the Morning News this morning on politics and religion - here are a couple of excerpts...

Participation in our electoral process is a great privilege and responsibility for all citizens, including people of faith. Increasingly, however, politicians are intruding upon our houses of worship to appeal for our votes.
When they do so, they demonstrate that people of faith are little more than a bullet point in their partisan campaign strategy....

We do not intend houses of worship to be "politics-free" zones. Clergy cannot be silent in political debates. Indeed, we have a responsibility to speak out about moral issues and should encourage the faithful to join in the great public debates of our day.
We also aren't asking politicians to deny the role their own faith plays in guiding their work.
But we must not blur the line between faith and partisan politics. Our houses of worship cannot be used as campaign props, nor our congregations deemed a "political base." We cannot allow those who disagree to be stigmatized. Religion should not be used to divide communities to win votes....

We should provide a perspective as free as possible from partisan ideology. We must not allow our churches to be tools of any political party. But we must see to it that our congregants are active citizens informed by a faith that has spiritual, cultural and, yes, political integrity and viability....
We do that when we recognize that there is no such thing as a Democratic or Republican theology.
There is, however, a justice that we are called to seek that is nonpartisan and a God who is free of our political entanglements.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Surgery and Planning Worship

I reported to the surgery center at 7 am this morning, and was home by 10. I remember telling the nurse something about where I work as I was being taken to the operating room and the next thing I remember is waking up in the recovery room. The anesthesia left me a little groggy, but after napping for an hour after I got home, I'm feeling ok. My knee is still numb - we'll see how I feel when that wears off. Doing ok so far - more to come...

The following excerpt is from an article on worship planning in Christianity Today.

On one of the hottest days of the summer, we worked when the sun was at its peak. My dad stopped and said, "Hey, Mark, let me show you something." We came to a spot where there were boards on the ground. Dad knelt by the boards and began to move them aside to reveal a hole. When the hole was cleared my father laid on his stomach, with his shoulders and head over the hole. "Mark, this is the spring. When I was your age, after we worked all day, I'd come with my brothers out to this spring." He reached down into the hole and brought up water. He said, "This is the best water I've ever had." I lay on my stomach beside my father, reached down into the hole, and cupped my hands. I drank that same ice-cold water my dad drank years ago, and he was right. It was the best water I've ever had.

In Genesis 26:18, Isaac reopened the wells his father had dug. Isaac went back when he was parched, thirsty, and in need. He went to wells that had satisfied his father, Abraham, and found refreshment.

Our churches aren't trying to create some new thing. When we innovate, we're simply coming back to the same source, the same Jesus, and we're drinking that water. Jesus said, "I'm the living water; come to me, all you who are thirsty." When we plan a worship service, we simply find ways to help people connect with Jesus, the living water.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

To Dress or Not to Dress

Today's Dear Abby consisted of 4 letters - 2 from writers who expressed a belief that one should dress up for church and 2 who expressed a belief that what was in the heart was more important than what was on the body.

Essentially, the "pro" dress writers felt that it is a matter of respect and reverence, that one should dress appropriately for the occasion, just as one would for a job interview or to meet someone of importance. They felt that it is disrespectful to wear less than one's "sunday best".

The "anti" dress writers felt that clothes were not so important as attitude, that dressing up is often a way of covering up or hiding one's true self; or that it can be a means of distinguishing class, of identifying who is like us and who is different.

I think that to some degree it is a generational mindset - that each generation has a tendancy to want to be different from the previous generation. To some degree it is a cultural mindset - this is how we do it here, and to belong, one is expected to conform. To some degree it is a matter of conscience - people truly believe that they should dress up or dress down to be faithful.

It is, to me, a small thing. And yet, if we think missionally, it may be one of those small things that should be approached intentionally, so that within our time and place we place one less barrier between people and the gospel.

At 7 am tomorrow morning I will be undergoing arthroscopic surgery on my knee. I've never had surgery before, and never anything other than a local anesthetic. I've done all the pre-op stuff that I'm supposed to...we'll see how it goes.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Willard's New Dictionary

Sometime in the recent past I ran across an article in which Dallas Willard suggested the possibility that some of the language we frequently use has developed a popular understanding that does not necessarily communicate the true intent of the language. He suggests developing a "new dictionary" to help us refocus on the meaning of several words. While one may not personally use what he describes as the popular definition, one would be hard pressed to deny that this is the meaning much of the world ascribes. Below are 5 words that he suggests need to be redefined, with the popular definition in italics followed by his revised definition:

Popular - One who is serious about church involvement.
Willard - One learning to live their life as Jesus would if he were they. An apprentice of Jesus.

Popular - Going to heaven, not hell, after death.
Willard - Being caught up into the life that Jesus is living right now on the earth.

Popular - God's forgiveness for our sins that takes away our guilt.
Willard - God acting in our life to accomplish what we cannot do on our own.

Popular - A feeling of desire for, or to act nicely toward, another.
Willard - To will the good of another.

Kingdom of God
Popular - Heaven, or the perfect realm that will exist at the end of history.
Willard - The present range of God's effective will, where what he wants done is done.